Omega Lamplighters showing rapid growth
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
Twelve years ago, Royale King didn’t have all of the inner workings down pat. He decided to start a mentoring program anyway.
He called it Omega Lamplighters, fashioning it off a program that he’d participated in while growing up in Texas. With help from a handful of his friends, the organization began to experience rapid growth.
The expectation is that the Omega Lamplighters organization will become even bigger. Social media will help the growth, but even more important the 150 young men in the program are its biggest recruiters, King said.
Forty-one of those boys are in the Junior Lamplighters program, which started two years ago for boys ages 8 to 12.
What they do to help recruit new members is “priceless,” said King, who started the Lamplighters in 2008 when he was a junior at FAMU.
“Somebody told me a long time ago that when people are telling other people to be a part of what you are doing; you’re really doing something because people don’t recommend crap to their friends,” said King, who is the Volunteer Services Manager for Leon County government.
When King and about six other fraternity brothers started the group with 20 students, the curriculum that the organization uses wasn’t in place.
The group had bigger goals, though.
“We wanted to make sure they understood the value of giving back,” said King, “but also they had people that look like them that they could go to and have real conversations about what they were doing.”
Caleb Johnson, who is in the program for two years now, said it didn’t take much for him to become a member.
“When I heard mentorship, I got excited because all I had in my life were women,” Johnson said. “I hadn’t had anybody to talk about sports with. What keeps me coming back is knowing that I’m learning something new every day. There is never a dull day.
“The other thing that keeps me coming back is the mentorship because I never met my father.”
Unlike Johnson, who said his mother was the one who founded the Lamplighters program, 11-year-old Ricky Harris said he joined at the urging of a friend.
“I just see them around the city doing a lot of good things,” he said. “I was like this could help me with a lot of other things like being more respectful in school and doing more things in the community rather than just playing football.”
The organization isn’t just growing locally, but it also has 21 offshoots throughout the country. Eight of them are in Florida.
Each affiliate, uses the same values – leadership, academics, maturity and perseverance — to help develop the mentoring program, King said.
Participants in the program call it invaluable. They point to character building, the educational trips and mentoring as the things that attracted them.
Although King said the organization is open to anyone, almost all of its members are Black, with some coming from single-parent homes.
Terrence McPherson, a junior at Rickards High School, is one of the exceptions. However, he said being in the organization has helped him improve his relationship with his father.
He also likes the exposure to Black history that he gets through the organization. Most of that comes when the boys take the 500 miles of freedom college and civil rights tour. That itinerary includes visiting Historically Black Colleges and Universities along with stops at civil rights sites in Alabama.
Then, there are events such as the recent FAMU HBCU Youth Leadership Conference that was held at the Lawson Center.
Having experienced the tour has actually influenced his college choice, McPherson said.
“Actually it brings me a lot of joy because all this is built by African Americans,” said McPherson. “So, I want to go to a HBCU.”
Curtis Jones, a senior at Lincoln High School, said he found the Lamplighters’ trip to the Pettus Bridge in Alabama interesting. Learning about the Bloody Sunday experience that took place in 1965 was a little surreal, he said.
“I can’t remember everything, but it’s amazing how people put their lives on the line just fighting for what was right,” he said. “They had a lot of courage to stand up for what they think is right.